Podium Preview: South Point 400

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By and large, tonight’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway likens to the first round of an NFL Playoffs game or a divisional round in the NBA or MLB.  After all, winning matters while consistency leads to middling results.

Sure, a 1.5-mile intermediate track for about 400 miles seems like an arduous task.  Certainly, how many races start off with temperatures near 100 degrees?  Truly, tonight’s race couldn’t be any different from the spring. Above all, the mercury readings are nearly as intense as the pressure surrounding 16 playoff teams and about 24 other competitors with one goal in mind – winning tonight’s South Point 400!

With that, our columnists, Ashley HobbsChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKobe LambethMatt Sisoler, Stephen ConleyTanner Brown, and yours truly muse about the NASCAR Playoffs, Las Vegas, and tonight’s South Point 400!

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Question 1

Could Kevin Harvick spoil the Gibbs and Penske party? (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Could Kevin Harvick spoil the Gibbs and Penske party? (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

With this year’s NASCAR Playoffs race kicking off in Las Vegas, we’ve seen Stewart-Haas Racing peaking in these summer months alongside the dominant Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing efforts.  Can someone else step it up starting during Sunday’s South Point 400?

Hobbs :  That would be a hard sell on another team, or driver, stepping up at this point. With Team Penske winning and earning the first runner-up earlier this year, followed by a Joe Gibbs Racing driver, it just shows that these two teams have been on their game all season. Sure, Harvick is finding his wings, but it’ll still be an uphill battle to unseat any of those Team Penske or Joe Gibbs Racing drivers.

Sisoler:  It’s going to be difficult to try and grab a win from the top seven cars (the four JGR cars, along with Keselowski, Logano and Harvick), as they all have shown speed. I wouldn’t rule them out, and it is nice to Harvick making a case for himself, but right now, it’s just not happening. Would I like to see one of the Chevrolets make a run, or maybe have Ryan Newman shake things up by making a deep playoff run? Absolutely I would, as would most of the fans, but I don’t really see it happening.

Acero :  As of now, if you ain’t a JGR, Penske race car, or have the last name Harvick, it’s going to be tough to try and take a win from them. Harvick is peaking at the right time and the other two teams are locked in since day número uno. Do I want to see another race team take the wins? Yes! Let’s shake things up during the Playoffs! 

Tiongson :  I think it’s possible that another team could challenge SHR, Gibbs, and Penske. We’ve seen speed from Hendrick and Gansssi during the summer but they haven’t quite executed on completing races. However, this is a brand new season. Byron and Larson seem to be finding their stride and let’s not count out Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch. They could mix it up here in the first few rounds.

Lambeth :  It is certainly possible that another team could surprise us and enter the championship picture. However, I do not see it happening. I believe that the Cup Series title will go to Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske or Joe Gibbs Racing. Although I would be intrigued to see if Ryan Newman could go on a similar magical run to the Championship 4, similar to the 2014 season.

Bowman :  Can someone else step it up? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not. If we haven’t seen momentum and growth out of a team or driver at this point, I think that the rest of the season will be treated as more of a learning experience for those who are not competitive in the Playoffs. 

Question 2

Beardless Jimmie Johnson's NASCAR efforts are hardly over. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

Beardless Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR efforts are hardly over. (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

Jimmie Johnson’s 15-year Playoffs streak ended after a crash in the Brickyard 400.  Does Johnson still have something to prove despite these tough past few years?

Conley : Without question, I think he has a lot to prove to himself and he wants now more than ever to win that eighth title. He believes he can, he believes in that team, and he would want nothing more than to end his career breaking that record. We’ve seen speed out of the 48 in recent weeks. Also, Cliff and Jimmie are getting on the right page and they’ll win soon. An overly determined Jimmie Johnson is bad for the competition. 

Brown :  I think he absolutely has something to prove. It is easy to tell by his attitude and demeanor that he and the 48 team as a whole are itching to get back to victory lane. Not only does he want to prove to the fans that he still has what he takes, but I think he also wants to prove to his team, sponsors, and himself that he still has what it takes. I believe the 48 team is starting to move in the right direction, and I see them getting to victory lane before the year is over.

Before we think about the Playoffs, let’s rewind back to Indianapolis with our race and points reports from the regular season finale!
Shoppe made a bargain of a pick at Indy!

Shoppe made a bargain of a pick at Indy!

However, everyone chases after the machine.

However, everyone chases after the machine.

As prevalent in recent Playoffs version of our previews, the panelists make some postseason predictions! Starting with the kickoff races of each new Playoffs round, the panelists predict who’ll be the bottom four from each Round (Round of 16, Round of 12, and Round of 8).  Bonus points will be rewarded by the season finale for these bold picks!  Without further ado, here’s our predicted eliminations after the Round of 16 with a graphical box!
How accurate will these elimination picks prove after the Round of 16?

How accurate will these elimination picks prove after the Round of 16?

Acero :  Alex Bowman, William Byron, Ryan Newman, and Aric Almirola (✔)

Bowman :  Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Erik Jones (✔)

Conley :  Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, and Clint Bowyer (✔)

Hobbs :  Aric Almirola, William Byron, Erik Jones, and Ryan Newman (✔)

Lambeth :  Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, William Byron, Kyle Larson (✔)

Sisoler :  Aric Almirola, William Byron, Ryan Newman and Erik Jones (✔) 

Tiongson :  Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman and William Byron (✔)

TPF Stats :  Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, William Byron, and Erik Jones (✔)

By all means, one of these 16 racers will emerge victorious at Homestead!   See who our championship picks are when the dust settles!
One of these 16 contenders plans to party like a champion at Homestead. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

One of these 16 contenders plans to party like a champion at Homestead. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Acero :  All arrows (and signs) point towards Denny Hamlin. 

Bowman : I am all for Denny Hamlin!!

Conley :  Denny Hamlin.

Lambeth :  Denny Hamlin will earn his maiden Cup title.

TPF Stats :  While the machine said Kyle Busch pre-season, the magic has shifted towards Denny Hamlin raising his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup trophy.

Hobbs :  Consistency, wins, and playoff points – these three things will help Kevin Harvick rise above the rest.

Sisoler :  By default, I have to change my pick cause I took Jimmie Johnson at the start of the year, so I am leaning towards Kevin Harvick winning his second Cup Series title.

Tiongson :  Kyle Larson can still get the job done if he and his team clean up their mistakes.

Of course, Ashley Hobbs swings by to provide some numbers for tonight’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas!
How does your favorite team fare in the only other time a Vegas Playoffs race occurred?

How does your favorite team fare in the only other time a Vegas Playoffs race occurred?

In case you forgot...

In case you forgot…

Logano kicked off his title run in 2018 solidly.

Logano kicked off his title run in 2018 solidly.

Who remembers the plethora of wrecks at Las Vegas?

Who remembers the plethora of wrecks at Las Vegas?

Our infernal machine thinks Rowdy wins tonight.

Our infernal machine thinks Rowdy wins tonight.

If there’s ever a time to roll the dice, Las Vegas serves as an appropriate place! Let’s reveal our picks for tonight’s South Point 400!
Can one of these five racers prevail in tonight's South Point 400 at Las Vegas?

Can one of these five racers prevail in tonight’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas?

Acero :  Kyle Larson seems to have this package figured out, hopefully he can turn that into a win at Las Vegas! 

Hobbs :  Joey Logano doubles down on his Las Vegas residency in 2019.

Tiongson :  Somehow, I see Kevin Harvick winning on Sunday evening at Las Vegas. He’s got the momentum right now.

Bowman :  Kyle Busch wins in his home state!

Lambeth :  Kyle Busch will return to his winning ways in Las Vegas.

Sisoler :  The beauty of our playoff format is that the full-season contenders can only pick each driver one time, which makes every pick critical. With that being said, I am going to take Kyle Busch to pick up the victory in front of his hometown fans!

TPF Stats :  Earlier this year, he was runner-up to two great Team Penske drivers. Last year in this race, he struggled a bit, but still ended up with a solid top-10. Kyle Busch come on down and win in your home state and kick off the 2019 Playoffs the only way you know how!

Brown :  Kurt Busch kicks off his 2019 playoff run with a win in the South Point 400.

Conley :  Kurt Busch.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the South Point 400 at Las Vegas!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday night’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2019. 

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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